Louisville coach Rick Pitino has played in the most difficult arenas in college basketball...Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina. He's faced some of the game's best guards through the years...Bobby Hurley, John Wall, Brandon Ingram, Sherman Douglass. However, he has never seen anyone like DeWayne Russell, or has witnessed a boisterous crowd led by the GCU Havocs during his 40+ years of coaching the sport. That hot take came straight from the horse's mouth. In his postgame interview, Rick Pitino gave enormous affirmations to the GCU athletics staff, DeWayne Russell, Dan Majerle, and the GCU Havocs. Before anything else is said, let this press conference speak for itself.
Saturday night was a big night for GCU athletics and the GCU Havocs. In the biggest game in school history, the Lopes fell to the 14th ranked Cardinals 79-70 in the GCU arena. Despite the loss, the GCU Lopes were amongst the biggest winners of college basketball on Saturday night. The Lopes gave Louisville a huge scare in front of an amazing sold out crowd of 7,493 people. If Louisville would have fallen on Saturday night, it would have been a complete nightmare for the Cardinals. In his postgame press conference, Pitino expressed relief that his team was able to survive at the GCU arena. The Lopes were competitive from the opening tip-off to the final whistle. The Lopes were able to keep pace with Louisville, despite missing three starters including their leading scorer and Preseason WAC Player of the Year, Josh Braun. The Lopes led 37-36 at the half, The game went back and forth in the first half. The atmosphere was simply amazing, and it was one of the best crowds I have ever been apart of. GCU point guard DeWayne Russell had one of the best individual performances of the decade. The GCU point guard single handily kept the Lopes in the game. Russell played all 40 minutes maintaining a 51% usage rating throughout the game. Russell lead all scorers with 41 points on 14-27 shooting with 2 assists and a steal. Russell did this against a Louisville team that was ranked #1 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Russell's 42 points were the second most points ever scored against Louisville. Here is a highlight video of DeWayne's amazing performance.
The second party that needs to be recognized is the GCU student section, the "Havocs." Over the course of the last two years, Dan Majerle has called the "Havocs" the best student section in all of college basketball here. Rick Pintino seems to share Majerle's sentiment of the Havocs; in his press conference, he said: "In my 40-plus years, this is the toughest college crowd I ever faced...I don't know a whole lot about Grand Canyon but us doing Dan a favor coming out here. And I probably would have lost my job if I lost. But you've got something special here, really special. When you have this kind of enthusiasm, it made us a lot better team tonight. Whether we go to Duke or Kentucky, nothing is going to be as tough as that environment. They orchestrated a timeout with music and the band so you can't hear one word in the timeout. I'm really impressed with what you have here." The people surrounding Grand Canyon University already knew the Havocs were special. However, with the hashtag #lopesrising on Twitter, now the whole nation knows what the GCU Havocs are all about. However, the GCU Havocs definitely displayed a very special performance in the game against Louisville. They helped the Lopes be competitive with Louisville. Here is a video that captures the fan experience inside the GCU arena on Saturday night.